Cringely on Google’s Power Meter

Lynne Kiesling

Bob Cringely’s take on Google’s Power Meter: it’s a strategic move toward them becoming an ISP:

Google’s PowerMeter is a Trojan horse – a way to become a de facto Internet Service Provider for potentially millions of homes.

Several years ago Google made a $100 million investment in a suburban Washington, DC company called Current Technologies, which is America’s leading provider of both smart electric metering services (that’s what the Google PowerMeter is supposed to be) AND power line Internet service based in part on the HomePlug networking standard. …

So the utilities partner with Google to install these boxes, ideally in every home. They install enough fiber for gigabit service to the medium voltage transformer with HomePlug or WiFi into the home. And the whole thing interfaces to Google at the power company’s data center where Google will install proxy servers and routers and connect to the Internet backbone.

Eventually Google — not the electric utility — throws the switch on consumer Internet access, IP TV, and VoIP phones, which the electric companies could have done – should have done – on their own but generally couldn’t be bothered to.

What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Cringely on Google’s Power Meter

  1. Google wants to control (ok, highlight) the world’s information. Who better to beat the utilities over the head with smart meters. If google does to utilities what they did to other competitors, then we are going to have some GREAT information flows.

    Will google use it against us? I doubt it. How do you make a profit off my meter history except to sell efficiency improvements? That’s win-win.

  2. Don’t forget that the only way utilities will deploy smart grid connectivity to homes is with the blessing of cost-recovery through rates, bestowed by their regulators. These regulators will rightfully demand cost-effective technology decisions for any costs that will be borne by ratepayers – that is the regulators primary function. So rest assured that Google, not consumers, will have to foot the bill to install any of the costly gigabit fiber that is is going to move anything other than utility-relevant smart grid data (e.g. Internet, TV, VoIP).

    In the end, the smart grid is a process-control network for energy information, not a data-streaming system for other high-volume applications. Trust me; no one is going want to watch YouTube on their meter!

  3. Its a great idea, but the challenge for most Power Line Carrier(PLC)type systems over the last 30 years has been to get it to work well enough and at a viable speed. I still find it hard to get my head round the notion of all the technical issues for PLC relative to fibre and mobile comms why you wouldn’t just use these? Utility Mains cables are hostile enviroments and as more low energy lamps are plugged in, the ‘noise’ on the mains only gets worse. That said I hope Current crack it!

  4. Lynne:

    The light grey text on pale blue background isn’t the easiest thing to read. Maybe a little more contrast for those of us with eyes on the far side of 40…

  5. I’m with the others here. I can’t find a way to make tech sense or business sense of it. So far, Google has managed to avoid attaching their fortunes to regulators or to extensive physical plants that serve even a fraction of their customers directly. For the regulators, that allows them flexibility. For the physical plant, it allows them liquidity and therefore agility. I just don’t see how this would make them a better company.


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